The European Court of Justice ordered on Wednesday (17 December) that Hamas be removed from the EU list of terrorist organisations, giving member states three months to provide evidence to review the ruling.
The Court said the original listing of the group that governs the Palestinian territory of Gaza had been flawed and based on conclusions derived from the media and internet, not sound legal rulings.
The Luxembourg-based court added in a statement that today’s decision was based on procedural errors and did “not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group”.
However, the EU court said it was nevertheless maintaining the effects of the measures in order to ensure that any possible future freezing of funds would be effective.
The decision came as the European Parliament adopted a resolution supporting the recognition of the state of Palestine in principle, a move that did not follow some European member states in backing immediate recognition of a Palestinian state.
Hamas was added to the terror list in 2003 following a push by Israel and the US to have the Islamist terror group – whose charter pledges to destroy Israel and calls for a genocide against the Jewish people – recognized as such in Europe.
However, after the Court of Justice removed the Sri Lankan terror group the Tamil Tigers from the list a few months ago, Hamas followed suit and appealed on the same grounds of a “lack of legal evidence to brand Hamas a terror organization.”
Not a political decision
“This legal ruling is clearly based on procedural grounds, and it does not imply any assessment by the Court of the substantive reasons for the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation,” a spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said during a press briefing. “It is a legal ruling of a court, not a political decision taken by the EU governments.”
The EU will continue to uphold the principles of the Middle East Quartet, which state it will not engage with Hamas until the group renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
EU institutions are carefully studying the ruling and will, “in due course, take appropriate remedial action, including any eventual appeal to the ruling,” the spokesperson said. “In case of an appeal the restrictive measures remain in place”.
In a meeting with Israeli officials, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen reportedly said that EU intends to do everything it can to get Hamas back on the list.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the EU to return Hamas to the EU list of terror organizations, saying Israel was “not satisfied with EU’s explanations that taking Hamas off the terror list is a ‘technical matter.”
“The burden of proof falls on the EU, and we expect it to permanently return Hamas to the list, so everyone will understand that it is an inseparable part of it — Hamas is a murderous terror organization that emphasizes in its charter that its goal is to destroy Israel,” he said in a statement.